Kyiv needs to help Ukrainian tourists abroad be independent of Russians

The "We speak Russian" sign in a shop window has spelling errors in every word (Image: pikabu.ru)

The "We speak Russian" sign in a shop window has spelling errors in every word (Image: pikabu.ru) 

More, Op-ed, Ukraine

Kyiv wants its diplomats to promote the independent identity of Ukraine abroad, Delovaya stolitsa reports; but it has generally failed to promote what could be an especially important ally: Ukrainian tourists abroad who need to become separate and distinct from Russian ones.

Unfortunately, the paper says, Ukrainian diplomats have done little to combat the ways tour companies often treat people from the two nations as if they were one because it is cheaper and easier to lump them together as Russian speakers.

As a result, the paper says, “Ukrainians are not only forced to coexist with Russians in hotels but also rely on programs prepared for tourists from Russia and using Russian-language guides.” Those Ukrainians who travel independently do not face this problem to the same degree, but even they are often kept in a common “Russian-language” space.”

“Our diplomatic missions are not involved with promoting the ‘Ukraine’ brand in those countries where every year tens of thousands of our fellow citizens take their vacations. As a result, Ukrainian tourists there remain invisible” because they are treated by others as if they were Russians.

If the Ukrainian government were to change its approach, tour companies would “rapidly Ukrainize themselves” not just linguistically but in terms of content. Any tour company that resisted would lose customers and might even “lose the right to work in Ukraine,” something few would be willing to risk.

And Ukrainian diplomats should be doing even more in this regard. “In cities where many Ukrainians take vacations, there would to be a permanent Ukrainian representation office. Not only in Ankara, Madrid or Cairo but in Antalya” and elsewhere. That would allow Kyiv to support Ukrainians and to promote the distinctiveness of Ukraine in the minds of others.

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Edited by: A. N.

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